Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Uber's "tips included" claims lead to driver lawsuit

O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc., 2013 WL 6354534, No. C-13-3826 EMC (N.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2013)

Plaintiffs sued Uber on behalf of a putative nationwide class of drivers for Uber, alleging, among other things, that Uber falsely represents to customers that drivers will get tipped.  I’ll only discuss the consumer protection claims, but some others survive this motion to dismiss (including claims from non-California drivers; Uber chose California law in its agreements with drivers).  The court dismissed the UCL “unfair” claims for want of specific allegations, but allowed the “fraudulent” claims to survive.

The standard is whether members of the public are likely to be deceived.  The complaint satisfied Rule 9(b).  It alleged that Uber advertises “on its website and in marketing materials, that gratuity is included and there is no need to tip the driver.” As a result, reasonable customers would expect that drivers would receive that gratuity.  But Uber does not remit the entirety of the gratuity to drivers, making the statements “deceptive and misleading.” These allegations were sufficiently plausible and plaintiffs provided the necessary particularity.  (Among the other claims that survived were a claim for breach of implied in fact contract with drivers as third-party beneficiaries.)

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